Greening a Five Year Old’s Birthday Party on a Budget

party

Here we go again with the birthday party planning – and FIVE is a big one! My son wants to invite everyone he ever met, load them up with goodies, and have a grand piñata finale. So how do we keep a party for 30+ kids fairly green and under a $500 budget? Fortunately, I have been thinking about this for a while.

September is a great time for an outdoor party and we have plenty of lovely public parks and playgrounds. But I, for one, am not taking a chance on a rainy day. So we found a small local playground with a no-frills recreation center that we can rent for $100. Done.

On to the theme: Our family is not averse to well-timed doses of television or celebrating fictional characters. This year we are going with Special Agent Oso, a Disney Junior program that breaks down everyday tasks into preschooler-sized “missions.” We’re going to take the special agent theme a step further with scavenger hunt missions around the playground and even find a way to green that piñata! Ready for your “three special steps?” Because we actually have like 30…

Scavenger Hunt Treasure

We gathered rocks and random slabs of granite from around the neighborhood, painted them, and doused them in glitter.

Total Cost? $5 for glitter. Total Environmental Cost? Rocks are as green as it gets. Conventional paint and glitter don’t help the planet, but I consider them an acceptable evil when it’s all about upcycling!

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Brilliant!

Tablecloths and Serveware

Paper and plastic tablecloths are a total waste. I was able to find plain white fabric tablecloths for $6 a piece that I will be able to use over again for events! And if you are better with a scissors than I, you can even buy a bolt of tablecloth fabric and cut it down yourself! Four tablecloths = $24 (and will never need to be purchased again). I will tally this total cost as $6 – price per use – as I am sure I will use these at least four more times

Compostable and biodegradable plates, cups, and cutlery are an imperfect science. Chances are they will not be disposed of properly and will not simply dissolve into the earth. BUT, using them avoids petrochemical plastics and uses more eco-friendly resources for manufacturing. We bought this all-inclusive-plate-and-cutlery-set for 50 guests for under $40.

Total Cost? $46 Total Environmental Cost? The amount of time it takes bio-based materials to degrade in Philadelphia landfill conditions + possible methane off-gassing.

Party Favors

I wanted to keep the party favors simple and functional and thought the kids would have a good time using magnifying glasses for the scavenger hunt. I refused to buy any worthless trinkets from Oriental Trading Company and scoured the internet for something affordable and actually useful. These kids magnifying glasses got decent reviews and I was able to buy 30 for a total of $42. I only wish they didn’t come individually wrapped in plastic baggies. Add some stickers and we have unique party gifts for all!

Total Cost? $42 Total Environmental Cost? Lots of plastic. But at least the products are useful and should make it home in one piece.

spyglass
Fine five-year-old handiwork.

Pinata

You can buy a conventional party pinata filled with absolute garbage for about $30. I found a Pinterest tutorial describing how to make your own piñata using a large balloon and paper mache. I bought a pack of three super big and sturdy latex balloons (the two extra are just for at-home fun!) Newspaper and water are free and a few tablespoons of flour costs pretty much nothing.

For the filling – here is where I got to have some fun! I spent a bit of money buying organic gummy treats and lollipops in bulk. But the rest of the stuff I threw into the pinata included things I had around the house like random samples of green baby shampoos and bodywashes and even a few little trinkets like stamps and stickers from previously received goody bags!

candy
There may have been a few gummy vitamins in this picture but they did not make it into the piñata because my husband reminded me that would be highly inappropriate.

And my most brilliant innovation for this thing was sticking a wire hanger through it for hanging! I’ll be honest, I am more proud of this thing than most of my life accomplishments. It’s going to be devastating to see it axed.

pinata
You know you are impressed!

Total Cost? $35 spent mostly on organic candy. Total Environmental Cost? A giant latex balloon is not very sustainable. However, I have recycled a wide variety of items, including the newspaper, and introduced kids and parents to some healthier treats!

Food

Here is where I say screw it and purchase plain ol’ conventional pizza. Seriously there are more than 30 kids showing up at this thing! (13 pies for $140). I make up for the junky pizza with cases of Honest Kids organic fruit drinks (on sale for $10.69 for 32 at Fresh Direct). But to my dismay I am pretty much forced to purchase bottled water as there is no realistic potable source in this rec center ($15 for two cases).

Total Cost? $166. Total Environmental Cost? Pretty high.

Cake

Our friend’s sister is a very talented “hobby baker” and always does a great job with our themed cakes. We don’t put any parameters on her as far as ingredients or even artificial icings – it would have been unreasonable to have asked her to make a Special Agent Oso cake for 60 people out of blueberries and organic buttercream. But we feel like homemade is still better than store bought and she gives us an amazing deal. (She asked for $50, we gave her $75).

The icing may be artificial but the contents are all real. Yum.
The icing may be artificial but the contents are all real. 

Total Cost? $75 Total Environmental Cost? Plus points for homemade, minus points for sugar content.

+ Balloons + Helium Tank

TOTAL: $495

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These kids LOVED the rocks and spyglasses.
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I will not shed a tear.
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Much chaos and a few tears ensued over the spoils of the piñata – until they realized they were fighting over shampoo.
Overall a success!
Overall a success!

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